Calm, composed and cool. Andrei Arshavin was all that as he slotted past a hapless Victor Valdes to win Arsenal the match against Barcelona. It was ironic that it was Arshavin who would win it for the Gunners. After all Arshavin has always stated his dream of playing for the Catalan giants.
But for now he dons the red and whites of Arsenal and on Wednesday he led Arsenal to a famous victory over Barcelona.
Samir Nasri surprising return from injury meant that Arshavin had to revert back to the bench. After coming on in the 68th minute for the ineffective Alex Song, Arshavin went on to score the winner 7 minutes from time.
In the 83rd minute Arsenal broke away in superb fashion after Fabregas played Nasri into space. Nasri waited and played a perfectly waited for the onrushing Arshavin. Arshavin took the shot first time and gave Arsenal the lead.
It was an exquisite finish by the much maligned Russian dynamo, who once again silenced his critics.
This has been a tough year for Arshavin. Although the statistics reveal that he has been successful, his work rate and attitude on the pitch as seen him draw a lot of criticism.
Arshavin has scored nine goals this season and has contributed 16 assists. But when he has played he has looked out of sorts and many times one gets the picture that he is not interested in playing.
He failed to track back, made no attempt to win the ball back and lacked the spark, Arsenal fans have come to expect from him. Even he admitted as to that much.
But it was his work rate that drew him flak as he failed to put in the effort required. This season Arsenal are playing a high intensity game and are pressurizing the opposition players when they are on the ball.
Arshavin failed to do this and for many it was growing frustrating.
Here was a man with bagfuls of skill, yet his lack effort was making him plain and ineffective.
But in the last few games we have seen a change in his form and is finally showing the quality and talent that made him such a threat.
He scored the winner against Everton again coming on as a substitute. He made an instant impact after coming on and caused problems in the Everton defense.
Then he put up another solid performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But his goal against Barcelona would have easily been one of his best moments in an Arsenal jersey.
Arshavin has slowly resurrected his season and it was his performances as a substitute that impressed me.
So following two strong showings as a substitute, should Wenger start to use him as an impact substitute? This would be something very similar to how Wenger handled Theo Walcott last season.
Despite Arshavin’s recent outings, we can only fully judge if he is back to his best if he remains consistent. This season he has had a few impressive outings only to disappoint in the next clash and go back to square one.
It was similar to what happened to Walcott last season. The Englishman was extremely inconsistent and would put on a great performance only to put on a poor showing next time.
Wenger then began to use him as an impact substitute, bringing him on when the match was slipping away. Walcott’s pace in the end proved to be a great tool and now Wenger has succeeded in bringing the best out of the English winger.
It would be best if Wenger employed Arshavin mostly as a substitute until he is completely back to his best.
Most of Arshavin’s poor displays have come when he has started: against Partizan, against Leeds United and Manchester United.
But he has had much more success coming on as a substitute.
So maybe it is time for Wenger to use the Russian wizard as a substitute more often. Arsenal have other players who can play in his positions.
There is no denying that Arshavin has tones of talent but right now he is failing to channelize all the talent into the final product.
He has enough quality to influence a game when on the pitch and right now that may help in bringing the best out of the Russian.
In his last two matches when he came on as a substitute, he has played some great football and was instrumental in winning the games for the Gunners. He scored goals, looked lively and looked sharp when on the pitch.
Arshavin had a fantastic first season at the Emirates as he dazzled all the fans with his trickery and performances. They have started to expect quality performances from the Russian and knowing his potential expect only the best from him.
The pressure to perform is lesser when playing as a substitute and Arshavin will benefit a great deal from this change.
Arshavin is only just coming back to his best and one poor game could destroy his confidence and affect his progress.
On Wednesday Arshavin showed everyone that form maybe temporary but class is permanent and if utilized properly Arshavin is an exceptionally classy player.